New rifles, the Romanov royal family and strange Soviet things... These topics were just a few of our most read stories of the year. Make sure you haven't missed any of them!
21. New Russian movie about the youngest Soviet soldier in World War II
Viktoria Fanasyutina/Mosfilm, 2019
A WWII-era Red Army regiment enlists a six year-old child. And he commits a few acts of valor of his own, which ends up earning him a medal. At first glance, the storyline of this movie comes across as a complete fairy tale. But, you will be surprised to know that 'Soldatik' ("little soldier") is based on a true story! Read more about the movie in our review.
20. Is it true that Soviet citizens were forced to go on month-long vacations?
This sounds a little ridiculous, doesn't it? But in reality, this was considered one of the "great socialist victories" of the USSR. A Soviet citizen couldn't work all year round without a holiday, they had to take a full 28-day paid vacation every year (sometimes even more). Find out how Soviet people spent their holidays and what happened if they didn't take all their days off here.
19. What happened to Stalin's descendants?
Getty Images; Global Look Press
The most (in)famous Soviet leader had three children of his own, one adopted child and several grandchildren. And, for certain, having such a last name couldn't not affect their fate. Some of them were proud of their kinship, while others tried to hide it. And there were those whose end was tragic. Read more about the lineage of the big name here.
18. How the USSR captured American aircraft
The story is perfect Hollywood movie material. Imagine: The Cold War between the U.S. and the USSR, the golden era for military aviation; a competition of speed, manoeuvrability and resilience... In these circumstances, it was incredibly important to capture the enemy's aircraft and study it in every detail. Read more about the elaborate and ingenious schemes the Soviets came up in order to seize U.S. fighter jets.
17. Russian roots of Prince Philip
Russia beyond; Getty Images; Public domain
The Year 2021 (just like 2020) brought the world a lot of sad losses. One of them was the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and husband of Queen Elizabeth II. We investigated Sir Philip's roots and found out that both his paternal and maternal ancestors had something to do with Russia and the Romanov royal family.
16. How Soviet students learned English in the USSR
English was a part of obligatory school curriculums in the USSR. However, the majority of Soviet people were not allowed to travel abroad, so they couldn't practice their English skills - or any other foreign language - with native speakers. Read more about various student struggles and successes in learning English!
15. Now in color: Russian beauties of tsarist times (PHOTOS)
Public domain, color by Klimbim
Russian Artist Olga Shirnina did a great job enhancing archive images taken in tsarist times. She added colors to the black and white photos, giving them a new, second life. In her works, the people depicted seem to become incredibly alive - sometimes they genuinely feel as if they are looking directly into the viewers' eyes. Take a look at these splendid before & after shots yourself.
14. The WEIRDEST stores in the USSR
You've definitely heard about the massive deficit in Soviet stores and that shelves were usually empty. Well, that's not the whole truth. The planned Soviet economy limited the choice: people wore the same clothes, apartments sported the same furniture. However, the country still boasted a variety of stores that sound exotic to us now, selling weird stuff from radioactive goods to mushrooms!
13. Russia reveals details of its next generation 'Centurion' soldier battle armor
The details revealed about the new Russian-made body armor are amazing. It's not only set to become the lightest body armor in the world, but it will also be able to automatically adjust to any soldier's body type and save them from... Well, no spoilers - read it all in our report.
12. Which Romanov family jewels are stored in the Kremlin's Diamond Fund?
Legion Media; Valery Gende-Rote/TASS
Some of Romanov's relics were sold by the Bolsheviks to the West or simply lost. Luckily, some of the jewels left in Russia are now on display in the Kremlin's museums, even some early 18th century diamonds. Take a closer look at them - and portraits of whom they belonged to.
11. 6 living Romanovs you should know about
Yuri Belinskiy/TASS; Matryoshka1890 (CC BY-SA 4.0); Getty Images
Of course, none of them are true heirs to the Russian throne (as the throne no longer exists). But the offspring of the Romanov dynasty live all around the world and some of them still call themselves prince and princess. Who are these people and what do they do? Find out in our story.
10. Why Stalin decorated the Romanian King - who was an ally of Hitler
Ullstein bild/ Getty Images
This is the story of the Romanian king Michael I who befriended the USSR. In Moscow, he was known as the 'Komsomol King' while Romania was jokingly described as a "socialist monarchy". So, how did Romania come to fight against the Soviet Union in World War II? Find out here.
9. Mikhail Baryshnikov: A DANCER whose flight to freedom brought him cult status
Probably the most famous male ballet dancer, Baryshnikov escaped the Soviet Union in 1974. During a Bolshoi Ballet tour in Canada, he requested political asylum in Toronto and, later, moved to the United States. We detail his story and explain what made him do this.
8. Russia to unveil the longest range sniper rifle in the world
All modern sniper rifles, ammo and platforms seem to have reached their physical limits. However, Russian Lobaev Arms corporation states that their new weapon will be able to hit targets up to 7 km away, while the current record is 4 km. The new sniper rifle is undergoing trial and is planned to be available for purchase in February 2022. Read all the details here.
7. Meet 'Big Floppa' - the hero of the most popular cat meme of 2020 (PHOTOS)
"To become a big cat, you have to eat a lot!" The indisputable truth. A wild caracal cat named 'Gosha' lives in a Moscow apartment with an adopted family. Thanks to his human, the cat became a global Internet star. We talked to his owner, who insists that the cat's big size is the only thing that differs him from a fluffy sweet kitten.
6. Welcome to the world of Russian thrash streams, where people get insulted and bullied for money
We keep exploring the brave new world of the Russian Internet and one of its darker areas is thrash streams, in which participants are ready to endure any humiliation for the sake of viewer donations. Some of these stories end up tragically. Read our investigation here, but, be warned, there are descriptions of violence scenes.
5. Why Thursday was fish day in the USSR
Kira Lisitskaya (Photo: Andrey Solomonov/Sputnik)
In this article, we explain the tradition of eating fish and seafood on Thursdays during the Soviet times. Why this day? And why was there a certain rule just about fish, not borsch or pancakes?
4. How traditions made the Romanovs constantly ill
Russia Beyond (Feodor III Alexeevich of Russia / Hermitage Museum /Public Domain; Teremnoy palace interior. Moscow Kremlin, Russia (CC BY-SA 3.0))
Lying in an extremely hot room, in flannel diapers, in a crib upholstered with black fox fur. This was a normal thing for royal kids. They were "suffocated with unnecessary worries" and didn't get a chance to build immunity. Our story reveals the incredibly interesting and unknown world of the highest medical care in tsarist Russia.
3. 5 books Dostoevsky considered masterpieces
Yarin/Sputnik; Каro, 2017; Simon & Schuster, 2005; Penguin Classics, 1950
The Year 2021 celebrated the 200th anniversary of Fyodor Dostoevsky's birth. Probably one of the most well-known Russian authors around the world, he is still frequently published and translated into foreign languages. But which Russian and foreign books actually helped form the author of 'Crime and Punishment'? Find out here.
2. Top 10 Russian TikTokers (VIDEOS)
Instasamka; Kira Simurina lips baby; Dina Saeva/tiktok.com
TikTok is growing fast in Russia, bringing local zoomers in the spotlight. They dance, sing, do crazy challenges and funny clips on camera. Drama queens, fitness trainers, singers... We found out who Russia's top TikTokers are.
1. King's Vatrushka: This pie brought delight to royal feasts (RECIPE)
Yes, this is a food story about a simple pie, but which tastes like heaven! Somehow, it became our most popular story this year - there must be a lot of foodies among Russia Beyond readers!
Find out how, at first glance, a peasant pastry became one of the favorites of royalty and an essential part of any court feast. And also learn how to bake it yourself!